Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Recall authority ordinance heads to full council

By Jim Hagerty

CITY HALL — The awaited recall ordinance that would be in place if Rockford returns to home rule has taken another step forward.

Previously left out of earlier votes by aldermen,  the measure was approved at the committee level Monday, sending it front of the full city council next week. If it’s green-lighted, it would allow voters to recall aldermen if they abuse home rule, namely by not following its self-limiting ordinances, and vote the mayor out for any reason.

Under the ordinance, a petition containing signatures of 10 percent of voters in his or her ward, but not less than 1,000 names, would be required for an alderman.

Unlike aldermen, who would only be subject to recall for violating self-imposed ordinances, there would be no specific reason needed to recall a mayor. All that would be needed to begin proceedings is a petition signed by at least 3,500 registered voters.

The ordinance also states that neither an alderman or a mayor can be recalled during their first or last six months of their current term. Subsequent recalls would be possible though. However, petitions filed within the same term would require signatures of 20 percent of electors.

Recall petitions would be filed in the city clerk’s office.

The recall ordinance is one of a string of binding local laws the council has approved should Rockford voters reinstate home rule March 20. They include automatic layovers, tax caps, public notices and public hearings. Elected officials say they’ve agreed to put them in place to quell some of the concern that home rule gives them license to enact draconian tax and fee increases without voter approval, which is the crux of the argument by those against the authority.

Any increase under home rule, however, would require a supermajority vote on city council. A public notice and an automatic layover of 15 days prior to adopting an ordinance that creates a new sales tax or increases existing sales taxes not authorized under the municipal code for non-home rule units would also be mandatory.

To address the public’s concern that home rule allows for unlimited debt, an ordinance would prohibit leaders from exceeding the debt limitation equal to 20 percent less of what is allowed for non-home rule authorities.

The ordinances would take effect only if Rockford returns to home rule the day after the primary election. If that happens, Rockford would be the most-regulated home-rule municipality in the state. R.

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